The crash. The sound of metal collapsing upon impact. Breaking branches, shattering glass, and the lurch of the truck turning itself inside out.
May braced herself for all of it as they careened off the road and into the woods.
But the violence never came. Cautiously she opened her eyes only to have the breath stolen from her lungs. Ahead of them the trees scampered to rearrange themselves, making a clear path for the truck to race along. As soon as they passed, the trees lurched back into place, erasing their tracks and sealing off their route with deep, dense forest.
Eyes wide and frantic, May looked to the others. She felt like she was losing her mind and needed reassurance from someone that she hadn’t just blacked out and dreamed the whole thing.
Her eyes landed on Dom and she gasped. She felt the same magical sensation she had that morning on patrol. But this time, as the dancing sunlight filtered rapidly through the cab, she caught a flicker of something in Dom she had never seen before. With every flash of brightness the glamour of his handsome face trembled to reveal something completely different – something altogether inhuman.
Em gave her a weak smile and a slow wink.
“Forest spirit,” she murmured.
May leaned in closer. She was certain she had misheard.
“He’s a forest spirit,” Em repeated with more volume. “One with a soft spot for humans, I might add. Works on the SAR team because he thinks it helps him maintain harmony between the mountain wilderness and the people who live in it.”
“I don’t think it helps, I know it does,” Dom cut in without taking his focus off the enchanted pathway before them.
May’s eyes flicked back to Dom. Now that she was looking for it, she could better see what was there when the sunlight shone through his disguise. A humanoid figure in earthy tones; skin the hue of rich soil, shaggy foliage cascading from the top of his head and coiling at his shoulders. Inky black eyes remained trained on the road. He was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
In spite of it all, May could only shake her head and laugh softly. While disbelief was her first instinct, she had seen too much at this point to doubt anything anymore.
The truck rumbled on, its passengers silent for some time. Questions raced through May’s mind. Would they travel like this all the way back to Mondova? Had the Loyal given up or was she still hunting them down? How had she managed to miss the fact that Dom wasn’t human?
“Does everybody know?” she asked carefully. She wasn’t sure what questions would be off limits.
Dom shrugged. Now that they were deeper in the forest where natural light was sparse he looked completely human again – the version of himself May knew best.
“The team knows,” he admitted. “They’ve always known.”
“Is it a secret from everyone else?”
Dom glanced at her quickly from the corner of his eyes. “I try to keep it pretty quiet for the most part. I like it better this way.”
“Hmm,” May gave Em a pointed look but continued to address Dom. “So, would you say you’ve entrusted your team – your closest friends – with your biggest secret?”
Em groaned and Dom raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” he said, a bit skeptically. “Why?”
It was Em’s turn to give May a look.
“C’mon, Emmy,” May whispered. “Don’t you think he deserves to know the truth?”
Shifting with unease, Em chewed on her bottom lip and stared off for a moment in silent contemplation. Then she sighed, knowing May was right, and shimmied her way into sitting up from her slouch.
“What’s going on?” Dom’s voice was cautious. “What do I deserve to know?”
“It’s a good thing this is a long drive,” Em grunted. “This might take a while.”